Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Week Before Christmas

It's the week before Christmas, my shopping's complete.

I've got bags and boxes surrounding my feet.

My letter is written and ready to fly,

My Christmas cards sit on the table nearby.

There's still all the cross-country traveling at hand,

Gift wrapping I'll finish, only after I land

In New York, for a Christmas just like days of old,

With memories that shimmer like California gold.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Automotive Purgatory

I have owned/driven only two vehicles since 1979.

When I began shopping for a new car last month ago, I remembered why.

It is a place of unique torment, becoming a car shopper. Even in these troubled economic times, most dealers will try to haggle every last dime out of the deal. Perhaps it's worse nowadays, since the dealerships are so hungry for customers.

Holy shock absorbers, what a nuisance! Under the current grim circumstances in the auto industry, you would think dealers would try not to be so annoying, but I suppose they can't help themselves.

Since I make the decision for this major purchase only once every fifteen years, I tend to do my research well in advance, figure my budget to the dollar, and know exactly what I'm looking for. However, nothing has changed for the better in the automotive sales world since my last purchase, in 1993. The straightforward communication of facts is meaningless to a salivating car sales rep.

It was as though I was speaking an ancient dead language, and I'm the only person left in the world who understands it. I suppose that was fair, since salesmen quickly discovered that the words "for only one thousand more" were not computing with me.

Even though I explained that I have a blank check from my bank, "not to exceed" a certain amount, eager dealers tried to tack on extra charges. I also received "urgent" phone messages in my blackberry--on Saturday morning. Shame on me for being foolish enough to hand out my business cards, but it made sense to me that the dealers should be able to reach me during the workday. Saturday is not a workday for me, but apparently that fact is irrelevant to a car dealer intent on strapping me into one of his orphaned inventory.

Today, I made my decision and emerged from automotive purgatory into the serenity of new car ownership. Well, new to me, anyway; after driving a 1993 Saturn all these years, a 2005 "pre-owned" car sure feels new. I saw; I liked; I bought (after a test drive, of course). I'm going to collect my used car--excuse me, I mean my "pre-owned vehicle"--tomorrow.

After my experiences of the past month, I'm quite sure I'll be good to go for another fifteen years. I bought a Honda Civic with low mileage, so a decade-and-a-half should be no problemo.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Political Fatigue

As the Brits would say, I've "gone off" national politics and have been avoiding the topic since the election, in case you haven't noticed. That's because I'm feeling a bit war-weary after the years-long presidential campaign, I'm bored by partisans both left and right, and I'm tired of hearing about corruption.

So today's news about Illinois' governor is instantly exhausting. Why? Because this latest dirty political scandal will now be flayed by the media to the last juicy bone until we're even more sick of it than we were of Rev. Wright.

This is one American who feels like wiping the chessboard clean and starting over from scratch, beginning with new local representatives, proceeding to the state level and all the way to federal officials.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Evil Is As Evil Does

Last week, a Canadian critic reprimanded me for failing to understand that Muslims feel “vulnerable.” Au contraire, they project tremendous cultural confidence, as well they might: They’re the world’s fastest-growing population. A prominent British Muslim announced the other day that, when the United Kingdom becomes a Muslim state, non-Muslims will be required to wear insignia identifying them as infidels. If he’s feeling “vulnerable,” he’s doing a terrific job of covering it up.
~ Mark Steyn

Face facts, dinosaur media types. Militant Muslims are the bad guys. The problem is not President Bush, or American foreign policy, or the big bad United States. The problem is evil, as perpetrated by Muslim radicals. Extremist madmen (and women) in the Muslim community who want all Westerners dead--especially Jews and Americans, as evidenced by the horrific India attacks--are the problem.

It is positively psychotic for any member of the MSM to act like the Bombay terrorist attacks were America's fault. Today, Pearl Harbor Day, is a good time to examine how the bombings and murders are being portrayed. Can you imagine a newspaper in December 1941 reporting that the Japanese were feeling "vulnerable"? That the "vast majority" of them were "moderate"?

No? Well, neither can I. That's because it makes zero sense. And no one in the media at that time was stupid enough to present anything but the facts. Let's toast the good old days of journalism, long gone and sorely missed.

Steyn concludes:

I wrote in my book, America Alone, that “reforming” Islam is something only Muslims can do. But they show very little sign of being interested in doing it, and the rest of us are inclined to accept that. Spread a rumor that a Koran got flushed down the can at Gitmo, and there’ll be rioting throughout the Muslim world. Publish some dull cartoons in a minor Danish newspaper, and there’ll be protests around the planet. But slaughter the young pregnant wife of a rabbi in Bombay in the name of Allah, and that’s just business as usual. And, if it is somehow “understandable” that for the first time in history it’s no longer safe for a Jew to live in India, then we are greasing the skids for a very slippery slope. Muslims, the AP headline informs us, “worry about image.” Not enough.

The West worries too much about calling evil what it is, when it happens. We do so at the peril of our existence. I wonder if, at this point, we have time enough left to figure that out for ourselves.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

No Comparison

As longtime readers know, I'm an addict of the Fox television show "24." So when I missed "Redemption," the two-hour prequel to the new season that aired November 23, I was disconsolate.

Then, through the magic of Google, I realized that I could watch all one hour, 27 minutes of the two hours (well, it's two hours "real time"--including commercials) on my computer.

So tonight I made my cup of tea, tucked a throw pillow into the desk chair, fired up my computer and settled in to watch the show. It was customarily engrossing, brutal, and suspenseful, but I have learned, the hard way, that on-computer viewing will never rival the comfy living room sofa-and-television combo. I have a backache, a crick in my neck, my eyes are scratchy, and a vague headache threatens.

Still, these minor complaints are nothing to what our fictional hero Jack Bauer had to endure in the space of 90 minutes. Holy machete, Batman. I'll stop there to avoid playing the spoiler for those of you who still have "Redemption" TiVO'd and ready to go.

Yahoo recently had a blog face-off between Jack Bauer and James Bond. I'm incredulous that James Bond won. I mean, James Bond has been around on film since I was a kid. How many actors have played Bond? A half dozen? One as immeasurably dull and perfect as the other?

However, there is only one blood-spitting, fist-splitting Jack Bauer!

I don't even bother with 007 flicks. I think I saw a couple back in my high school days, but they bored me. Tuxedos? Martinis? Sex and fancy cars? Phooey. Give me dirty, gritty, hell-bent-on-good-triumphing-at-any-cost Jack Bauer any day, with his perpetual 4-day beard and his highly creative renegade ways. I'm one of legions of Bauer fans who agree, as evidenced by this link to "24 Reasons Why Jack Bauer rules.

At the end of the Yahoo face-off, the question is posed: "Which operative would you rather have saving your life?" My answer is, of course, the one I contorted myself into an office chair to watch for almost an hour and a half.

Bauer. Jack Bauer.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My Bailout Plan

Dear Members of Congress:

The astute among you (please God, a few of you are) may be aware that hard-working American citizens have taken quite a hit in their assets lately. Between the real estate crash and financial meltdown, most of us will be hopping to the tune of an alarm clock for a decade or so longer than we had hoped or planned.

Unless, of course, you assist us with easy cash. You seem to have the federal checkbook at the ready for every Ford, GM, and Chrysler that strolls through the chamber holding out empty pockets, so let me present my personal bailout plan.

Being conservative, I estimate my handout--excuse me, bailout--at a measly $50,000. A nice, round number, a bit less (actually, a lot less) than what I've actually lost, but oh, piffle, it's only money, right? And such a tiny sum! I would think you could scrape up $50,000 out of the annual Capitol Hill breakfast budget.

Anyway, in exchange for a modest $50,000 reimbursement for my mental distress at watching my life savings evaporate due to rampant corruption within government and without, I propose the following Ten Point Plan:

1. Continue to drive my 1993 car until the wheels fall off.

2. Wash said car myself, passing by the fund-raising kids who accept any donation.

3. Watch only my $8.99 (+tax) per month, unlimited Netflix, omitting any bargain matinees.

4. Watch said Netflix on my 1990 TV until it dies, then buy a used, cheap, pre-flatscreen set.

5. Keep wearing my 2001 leather jacket instead of buying a new one on sale.

6. Stop the quarterly manicures--such extravagance!

7. Allow my newspaper subscription to expire; there's nothing but bad news, anyway.

8. Stay out of Target, even if all my brands are on sale.

9. E-mail friends and family for birthdays, instead of sending cards.

10. Tell my kids to bring their own food when they visit me for Sunday dinner.

No doubt I'm overlooking numerous areas of profligate waste within my personal budget, but I hope you'll agree that the above-noted proposals are a productive start to justifying my bailout. I look forward to your prompt response, hopefully before you adjourn for your next six-week holiday.

By all means, feel free to send my check C.O.D. I'll pay for it; I always do.